OTR Interviews

Paul Ryan: Hometown boy, small business values

'Paul Ryan: From Wisconsin to Washington': A look at the congressman's favorite restaurant and the family business owner hopes he brings to Washington


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," April 17, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: This week, you have heard a lot about vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, from his politics to his personal history. But here's something you probably haven't heard about, one of his favorite hometown restaurants. Griff Jenkins talked to the owner in Wisconsin.


GRIFF JENKINS, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Edmund Halabi is the owner and chef here at the Italian House, one of Congressman Ryan's absolute favorite foods. How long has Paul been coming here?

EDMUND HALABI, OWNER, ITALIAN HOUSE: Well, I would have to say at least 20 to 25 years. Ever since 1988, the year we opened up next door here, he's been coming over to eat with all his other high school friends. There's a high school right next door to us. So we fed about 200 kids every single day, and Paul Ryan would be one of them, running over here to grab a quick lunch. Back in the day, it was about 2 bucks. Today it's gone up to 5 bucks a lunch.

And Paul still to this very day comes over and gets the food that he grew up enjoying, something unique, something different that represents Janesville tremendously.

JENKINS: Now, we can see on our all the famous folks that have eaten here. Paul Ryan's certainly here, his brother Toby up there. Tell me, when the Ryans come in -- not now, before the vice president's pick -- but this is a congressman. Does he get bothered? Is he a celebrity in your restaurant? Does he like to keep to his own? What's it like when he comes in here and has dinner?

HALABI: Absolutely. Well, Paul Ryan and his family are very, very much loved in Janesville. Of course, Janesville's a small community, so everybody knows everybody. And so when Paul comes in to eat in here, for example, we would tell our staff, Don't bother him. Don't go off and ask too many questions, anything. Let the man enjoy a nice, peaceful dinner with his family.

But fortunately, everybody just adores him. So when they walk in and see Paul sitting there, eating with his family, they want to come up and say a quick hello to him. And the poor guy gets interrupted all the time. Every time he's trying to put a fork in his mouth, here comes somebody going, Hey, Paul, how are you? And Paul I'm sure always feels obligated, having to stop and say a few words to this person.

JENKINS: As a small businessman, are there things that you hope he will do? Are you supporting him or...

HALABI: Well...

JENKINS: ... you know, is there advice you want to give him?

HALABI: Well, I hope that the next two, three months, Paul is going to come up with a clear picture of what he intends on doing. I know Paul feels a lot for small business because he, too, comes from a small business family that grew over a period of time to where, for example, his family business is today.

Most small businesses are always struggling in their initial 5, 10 years of their business when they first start off. So they need a lot of support. And I'm hoping that Paul has a plan out there for small businesses, be it some tax breaks, be it some way to infuse money to our bank. Obviously, as you know, when a small businessman goes to a bank to borrow money, oftentimes, that is not really well received. There's always a big hesitation because, oftentimes, small business people -- you know, sometimes 80 percent of them will fail in the first three years.

So -- but that's the most critical time of a small businessman, when he does need that support of the bank or tax breaks or things to keep him alive to build that concept that could some day develop into something bigger and better.

JENKINS: When you learned the news that he was going to be the chosen Mitt Romney's running mate, what was your reaction?

HALABI: Oh, my God, I was just elated! I was just so happy and excited for him. You know, and regardless whether he's a Republican or a Democrat or an independent, I just know the person. And the person who Paul is is just amazing. And I'm sure when America gets to know a little bit more about Paul, the kind of his principles, his passion for what he does -- and I'm so glad that we have him in government, rather than him working for a corporate company out there because he'll make that company so successful. I'd rather see him on board.

And if he can think outside the box and bring something to the table, something new and exciting to re-energize this economic fiasco that we have been going through for so many years -- not just four years ago or eight years ago, but our economy is struggling, it has been struggling, it's been going spiraling down, downhill. We need something to stop that and bring that back and move it forward again.

JENKINS: Well, you mentioned energy and excitement. There must be something that he's eating here. What is he eating? What is his go-to food? Can you show us?

HALABI: Well, absolutely. Well, Paul eats different foods and all that stuff around. But one of his favorites that I know over the years that he's always ordered from us throughout the years has been tortellini. Loves the tortellini, the round noodles. They're filled with meat and cheese on the inside, comes with a meat sauce.

This garlic bread with cheese is a very sinful, delectable item.

JENKINS: It smells very good.

HALABI: It is just absolutely tasty. Then of course, when he's picking it up to take it home to his family, he'll pick it up, like, in a half-gallon container, which will feed a family of four to five here.

Now, of course, he always gets his salad. He's a healthy man, always like to eat healthy. You know, he's got to make sure there's something healthy in his meal. And of course, our famous meatballs that he always likes to -- I'm sure he's eating that for the protein that he works out to -- that he's trying to gain.